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Battle of Saratoga - Revolutionary War

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Paper Prints approximate image size is: 14x21

Assault on Balcarres Redoubt, October 7, 1777

The British Surrender at Saratoga stunned the British, the World and even the Americans. How could a ragtag army, raised from the loosely structured colonies, so utterly defeat the world’s most disciplined army? The story of the battle is one of the most compelling dramas in military history.

The British plan was simple and seemingly foolproof. By marching down the Hudson from Canada, joining with British armies from New York and Lake Ontario, they would divide the Colonies and deprive them of the Hudson waterway.

Maj. General John Burgoyne led the march from Canada with 9,000 troops, British, German and Canadian. The American army under General Philip Schuyler contested their movement and slowed the progress.

British leverage began to erode as the march processed. The force from Lake Ontario was turned back and a Burgoyne detachment suffered a terrible defeat at the Battle of Bennington. Nevertheless, Burgoyne was determined to achieve his objectives and made a bold decision to continue.

Schuyler, meanwhile, was desperately trying to strengthen his army for a direct battle. Before Saratoga, however, General Horatio Gates replaced Schuyler.

The stage was set when Gates entrenched his army at Bemis Heights, South of Saratoga. Burgoyne decided to fight.

On September 19 a pitched battle took place at the Freeman Farm, north of the American fortifications. The British held the field but the rough battle convinced Burgoyne to entrench and wait for the army he expected from New York. Three weeks passed and each day the British supplies dwindled while the American forces grew with reinforcements and new militias. Burgoyne was in a dire situation… his demoralized army would now be facing a larger and bolder enemy.

 

In spite of this, he was forced to take action. On October 7th a British force advanced on

the American left flank. Serious fighting ensued and the British and German soldiers broke pell mell in a run to the protection of the Balcarres redoubt. In the thick of the fight was Benedict Arnold, leading the men despite having been relieved of command by Gates. Arnold led a series of assaults on the redoubt. When they were repulsed, he joined the assault on another nearby fortification, the Breyman Redoubt. It was taken quickly. Darkness ended the fight but the advantage was all in the hands of the Americans. With the loss of the advantageous Breyman Redoubt the British evacuated the Balcarres redoubt and began a general retreat to Saratoga the next night. At Saratoga, Burgoyne surrendered after the American Army, which had grown to an incredible 20,000 men, surrounded his depleted army of 6,000. This ended the battle that gave hope to the new Americans and, more importantly, helped convince France to support the Revolution.

The painting shows the first assault on the Balcarres Redoubt. Uniforms for the British and German troops varied in colors (all bright) and style (all very snappy). Since they broke ranks during the retreat, you’ll see quite a cornucopia manning the redoubt. The fallen soldier in the ‘abatis’ (log and limb piles) is a German although many assume he is a Continental Soldier (Continental blue uniforms came later). The American troops in the light blue are members of the 2nd New Hampshire regiment. In the background on horseback is Benedict Arnold. The events behind his betrayal of America are, to me, painful to read.

Research for this painting was greatly aided by the fine rangers at the Saratoga National Historical Park. I can’t say enough about their help and their desire to help me make the painting historically accurate.

Andy Thomas

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